Daniel Lemire's blog

, 1 min read

Is programming “technical”?

According to student evaluations, most of my students appreciate short programming assignments. Yet, every year, some students think that programming is below them or unimportant.

Maybe I should start my courses with this theorem:

Theorem. If you understand an idea, you can implement it in software.

There is no denying that programming requires a lot of technical knowledge. Most programmers do technical jobs, involving testing, building or refactoring code. But programming is ultimately a communication form. And it is as noble as Mathematics or English. Let us compare:

  • Writers are considered sexy and non-technical people. Yet, grammar and spelling are technical. Moreover, most writers earn a living by writing ads for boring products. Some of them make a living with grand novels, but fewer than you think.
  • Physicists are great thinkers. Yet, their mathematical derivations are often mind-numbing and technical. Many physicists spend years running extremely technical experiments. And when they don’t, they program extremely complex (and technical) simulations.

For some reason, being a writer is somehow considered more prestigious than being a programmer. If you ask me, Linus Torvalds is every bit as cool J. K. Rowling. And I’d rather have a lunch date with Linus.